2022: The Year of the Mom Cuddles
A reflection on 2021 and a pledge to be more present as a mom of a young child.
Let's just get this out of the way: Being a mom is exhausting. It is unending, and for all its magic and reward, the job is relentless. It is highly criticized, lonely and mentally, spiritually, and physically taxing. It's easy to get caught up in reaching milestones, always looking to "What's next?" The loneliness can drive one to Instagram where the picture of motherhood is painted in a filtered light only leading to further isolation, and every person seems to have an opinion about what being a good mother means.
And you know what people love to say? "The days are long, but the years are short." Have you ever stopped to think about how much a child really changes and grows in his or her first year? It's truly astounding and really seems to happen in a blink and you'll miss it moment. And here's the thing, while I hate to give credence to the hackneyed and trite expression...it really is true. My daughter spent three months in the PICU, one of those months in critical condition after a terrifying delivery. When she finally came home just shy of three months old, she was essentially a newborn in development. She spent her first month under heavy sedation medicine unable to move because of the cannulas in her neck and the rest of her time in the hospital (and early weeks at home) slowly weaning off the very strong drugs she had been on for her entire life to keep her comfortable during the invasive life-saving interventions.
She came home on January 10 of last year with a complex set of directions and a schedule of medications that at one point were administered eight times a day, a feeding pump to a gastronomy tube in her stomach, and a list of follow up visits with various specialists to be completed as an outpatient in the following months. We had a lot of "catching up" to do, in more ways than one. My husband went back to work the next day as it was still a relatively new (and demanding) job that he had already exhausted every second of PTO for while she was in the hospital. My stepmom came from her home 80 miles away to help and finally meet her granddaughter, and we managed to survive that first day. And the first week. And the first month. And suddenly, here we are. Almost exactly a year later.
Wait. That was a year ago?
Those early months passed by quickly, but the days were LONG. We had to wean our daughter off those very powerful drugs one by one, and let me tell you, watching a frail infant struggle through drug withdrawals is one of the hardest things I have ever witnessed and would not wish that on anyone.
Our to-do list from the hospital was really never-ending, and that's in addition to trying to figure out growing medical bills, my own employment, applying for various assistance, searching for various therapists, on top of the logistics of having a new person around. Never mind the PTSD of the previous three months, the crazy hormones and the whole being a new mom thing.
It flew by. I look at pictures now and can see the quick and slow transformations. The milestones, the weight gain, the many MANY doctor visits. We had lots of happy cuddle sessions and staged photo sessions in her cute little outfits, but I feel like I missed some of the joys of having a new tiny little person around because I was so focused on "What's next?"
After her birth, I immediately adopted a day-to-day approach to life out of sheer necessity, and it's a philosophy that has stuck. I was able to find joy in the littlest moments, because in a year that saw our family still very isolated, the little moments were truly what we had.
2021 was a difficult year for our family, as it was for countless others around the world, but it was also full of lots of joy, love, and gratitude, too.
It was not restful. Even in the moments when I truly savored the snuggles or smelling my baby's sweet little head, I missed the rest of those moments. There was always a little voice in my head reminding me of the to-do list left unfinished.
I have spent the last week of 2021 with a cold, my first in a few years, and it is taking its sweet time going away. In part because I do not have time to rest. My husband likes to remind me to think of the long-term, not the short-term. Sure, I can power through the symptoms today, but at what cost tomorrow? This cold would have been gone last week if I could have just slept, but again, being a mom doesn't provide the best time off plan.
My sweet baby and I have shared this cold, because we share everything else, after all, and she has been the sweetest little cuddle monster. And feeling like absolute crap has been the most useful jolt of reality that I have had all year: JUST REST. With literally no energy to fight it, I have to just succumb and take a beat.
The lists can wait. The tasks can wait. Take a breath, mama.
In the new year, I want to prioritize those lazy morning cuddles, to savor the peace of accepting that the to-list will never be complete, and knowing that that's okay, and to enjoy a hot cup of coffee. To take those walks around the neighborhood with the family. I want to enjoy just laying on my bed when I do get those moments of down-time to read a book, or watch a favorite movie. Those moments of rest are often where life happens.
When I think back on 2021 now with still relatively fresh eyes, the parts I remember the best are the moments where I just was. Where I just existed in the moment. In a cabin with my husband and daughter enjoying the leaves, not worried about milestones or bills or work. With my family for the first time in two years for Christmas, enjoying a meal and listening to music. Watching a new tv show with my husband and binging a season while my daughter slept.
I have to take my husband's advice to look at the macro level. If I prioritize taking a real break more often, I will have more energy to face the days ahead. I must work on redefining rest for myself. Both what it is and its purpose. Rest is okay. It is not lazy or frivolous. It is a literal lifeline, and it often encapsulates the very moments I pride myself so deeply on savoring. Looking back at this time next year, I will reflect on 2022, healthy and alert, and rested.
Well, as rested as a mom can be.
About the Creator
Writing for fun and as an escape from the everyday. After all, what is life for if not to create?
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